The best-selling memoir Eat Pray Love recounts a woman's journey around the world in search of solace after a challenging divorce. In the author's travels, she looks to pursue pleasure while in Italy, devotion in India, and a balance between the two in Indonesia. The book has been so immensely popular that it was recently adapted into a movie starring Julia Roberts. In today's challenging economy, you may not have the money or the free time to chuck your day job and travel around the world for a year. But you can apply the principles of Eat Pray Love to your own investing game plan without leaving the comfort of your living room.
The virtue of sin
In the book's first section, author Elizabeth Gilbert travels to Italy to find pleasure through studying the Italian language and eating her way back to health. There is no shortage of folks who take their pleasure and leisure time seriously, which means that stocks that cater to these needs can be very profitable investments. One mutual fund which seeks to benefit from the "seedy" side of pleasure-seekers is the Vice Fund
For example, consumer-goods names Philip Morris
Likewise, defense-related industrial stocks Lockheed Martin
A higher calling
In the next leg of her journey, Gilbert travels to India to study devotion at an ashram, or religious sanctuary. Fortunately, individuals with strong religious or social beliefs don't have to check their beliefs at the door when it comes to investing. For example, the Ave Maria line of mutual funds offers investments compatible with traditional Catholic belief systems. There are other religious- and socially screened funds available, but I think one of the best options is Neuberger Berman Socially Responsive
This large-cap fund avoids stocks that operate in the alcohol, gaming, tobacco, or weapons industries, instead seeks out attractive names with socially responsible workplace and environmental policies. Right now, the tech sector is overweighted in the portfolio, including big names such as Yahoo! and Intuit
Many socially screened funds have failed to keep pace with the market, but Neuberger Berman Socially Responsive has certainly earned its place at the top of the heap. Over the past decade and a half, the fund has outpaced more than 80% of all large-blend funds with a 7% annualized return. If you like your investments with a side of conscience, consider adding this fund to your portfolio.
Keeping it in balance
Of course, a life devoted entirely to hedonistic pleasure or to self-denying devotional practices isn't the healthiest approach. So in the final portion of "Eat Pray Love," the author makes her way to Indonesia to try to find a way of life that balances the two. Balance is an important lesson to take to heart for investors as well, since few people succeed by investing entirely in risky, high-octane growth stocks or by playing it safe and sticking completely to risk-free Treasury bonds. If you want to bring some balance to your portfolio, consider a top-tier balanced, or hybrid, mutual fund such as Vanguard Wellington
Vanguard Wellington invests in a combination of stocks and bonds, making it appropriate for investors of all age ranges. On the stock side, management likes high-quality, financially stable names selling at low valuations that also offer up decent dividend yields. AT&T
So even if you don't read the book or see the movie, you can take some important tips from the phenomenon that is Eat Pray Love. And maybe you can start saving up for your own trip around the world -- next year, of course.
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Amanda Kish is the Fool's resident fund advisor for the Rule Your Retirement investment newsletter. At the time of publication, she did not own any of the funds or companies mentioned herein. Philip Morris International is a Motley Fool Global Gains choice. The Fool owns shares of Altria Group. The Fool has a disclosure policy.